Whale Anatomy: Do Blue Whales Have Teeth?

do blue whales have teeth

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In this post, we’re going to take a closer look at the blue whales’ mouths, and specifically answer do blue whales have teeth?

In a nutshell, blue whales do not have teeth. They are baleen whales that instead of teeth have whalebone on their top jaw to sieve out their food.

Blue whales are some of the most magnificent creatures on earth. They are the largest mammals and can weigh as much as 300,000 lbs and be 26 feet long.

These massive whales may seem intimidating at first glance, but they are really gentle giants that have no interest in harming or eating humans.

They have a strict diet of small crustaceans, such as krill, and they use their gigantic mouths to mop them up during feeding season.

Oftentimes they will scoop up millions of krill and other crustaceans every single day, and use their specialized baleen to filter out the grub from seawater.

Let’s take a closer look…

Do Blue Whales Actually Have Teeth?

Blue whales are not predatory animals. They don’t need sharp, razor-like teeth like some other marine animals to shred apart prey, as they feed almost exclusively on krill.

These whales are not terrifying carnivores that you should be afraid of, they are actually harmless to humans.

And although blue whales may seem incredibly scary to some people because of their size, their baleen plates would be unable to penetrate human skin, so there’s no need to worry.

Blue whales are even quite friendly and curious towards humans, they often can often pop up near boats to take a look at what’s going on in their surroundings.

On the other hand, these baleen plates are perfect for trapping millions of krill in their mouths with one single gulp, making feeding time super effective.

In feeding season, blue whales can eat as much as 40 million krill per day, which gives them all of the nutrition they need and allows them to pack on some blubber for the winter months.

To summarise, blue whales don’t have teeth, and instead have baleen which allows them to filter out food from the water.

Blue Whales Are Baleen Whales

Unlike some species, like the sperm whale, beluga whale, and strap-toothed whale, blue whales are baleen whales.

There are 14 species of whale, including the blue whale that belong to the baleen whale family.

This means that they capture their prey by using baleen in their mouth, which works like a sieve to filter out food that they scoop up.

Baleen, which is made of keratin, just like our fingernails allow the blue whale to separate food from seawater.

Krill and other small crustaceans get trapped in the baleen, which works kind of like the teeth of a fine comb.

Blue whales swallow huge amounts of water that they hold in their belly, then force it out of the 300 to 400 fibrous baleen plates and swallow the thousands of krill in between.

The baleen plates grow out perpendicular to the whale’s upper jaw, lining down as slats around their mouth.

What Exactly Is Baleen?

Baleen is made from the same proteins that human fingernails are made from.

They are strong bristles that are packed between two rigid plates and hang vertically from the whale’s top jaw.

They grow on the upper mandibles of baleen whales and can extend one meter long on the blue whale.

Just like fingernails, baleen is continuously growing and wearing down.

The hard plates on the baleen that face the inside of the whale’s mouth wear down much quicker than the bristles, causing them to intertwine and stick.

This makes it easy for prey to fall inside a baleen whale’s mouth, but much more difficult for them to escape.

These small bristles are able to catch krill and other small zooplankton as small as half a millimeter in size!

It’s the perfect tool for scooping up thousands of small crustaceans and getting them trapped on the inside of your mouth.

Did Blue Whales Use To Have Teeth?

Scientists have shown that it wasn’t always this way, and blue whales did in fact used to have teeth.

They have found the first genetic evidence for the loss of teeth in the common ancestor of all baleen whales.

A single gene, called the enamelysin gene, critical in the formation of enamel in all mammals and in some other animals, was inactivated in the common ancestor of all baleen whales.

Prior research indicates that the ancestor of baleen whales did not have teeth 25 million years ago.

Meaning the loss of this gene must have occurred before then.

So yes, blue whales did in fact have teeth at one time, which would have made them a much more fierce marine mammal than they are today.

Final Thoughts

To conclude, no blue whales do not have teeth. Instead, they have baleen which is used to trap prey inside the whale’s mouth after taking in large gulps of seawater and krill.

From there the baleen acts as a filter in order to separate the two, with the krill getting stuck in the baleen and swallowed, and the seawater being pushed out of the other side of their mouth.

It’s a highly effective way to consume a lot of small prey at one time, and given that the blue whale is so large, they can consume an immense amount of krill in one single mouthful.

Hopefully, this post has answered your question about do blue whales have teeth? And you now know that instead, they have baleen, which allows them to be the filter feeders that they are today.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post, and feel free to stick around to learn more about whales and other marine life.